Plastic pollution and fungal, protozoan, and helminth pathogens – a neglected environmental and public health issue?



Ormsby MJ, Akinbobola A & Quilliam RS (2023) Plastic pollution and fungal, protozoan, and helminth pathogens – a neglected environmental and public health issue?. Science of The Total Environment, 882, Art. No.: 163093.

Plastic waste is ubiquitous in the environment and can become colonised by distinct microbial biofilm communities, known collectively as the ‘plastisphere.’ The plastisphere can facilitate the increased survival and dissemination of human pathogenic prokaryotes (e.g., bacteria); however, our understanding of the potential for plastics to harbour and disseminate eukaryotic pathogens is lacking. Eukaryotic microorganisms are abundant in natural environments and represent some of the most important disease-causing agents, collectively responsible for tens of millions of infections, and millions of deaths worldwide. While prokaryotic plastisphere communities in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine environments are relatively well characterised, such biofilms will also contain eukaryotic species. Here, we critically review the potential for fungal, protozoan, and helminth pathogens to associate with the plastisphere, and consider the regulation and mechanisms of this interaction. As the volume of plastics in the environment continues to rise there is an urgent need to understand the role of the plastisphere for the survival, virulence, dissemination, and transfer of eukaryotic pathogens, and the effect this can have on environmental and human health.

Biofilm; Environmental pollution; Eukaryotes; Human health; Microplastic; Plastisphere

Science of The Total Environment: Volume 882

FundersNERC Natural Environment Research Council and NERC Natural Environment Research Council
Publication date15/07/2023
Publication date online28/03/2023
Date accepted by journal23/03/2023
PublisherElsevier BV

People (2)


Dr Michael Ormsby

Dr Michael Ormsby

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Professor Richard Quilliam

Professor Richard Quilliam

Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Projects (2)